Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Agent Jim Cooper



He Started Out to Get Two Murderers and Refused to Quail Before 400 Warriors and a Like Number of Squaws — He Carried Through His Programme Too.

A tall, keen eyed, square shouldered, sandy haired man, with a countenance that bespoke a quiet and reserved nature, strolled out of the Hotel Lawrence and walked slowly up E street toward Newspaper row. As he passed the Press club an army officer stopped forward and shook hands with him cordially and then rejoined his companions.

"Do you know who that is?" inquired the military man. "No? Well, that's ex-Special Agent Cooper of the Indian office. Everybody in the far west knows Jim Cooper. He has nerve enough to supply a whole family of mountain lions and have enough left to equip several companies of hard riding Indian fighters. During the stormy times at Pine Ridge agency several years ago Cooper was a strong factor in settling matters with the Indians, being present there as a civilian representative of the government. His fame had preceded him to Pine Ridge from the Tongue river reservation of the northern Cheyennes, up in Montana, where he followed a career that was full of exciting adventures. One incident that may give you some idea as to the character of the man occurred up on the Tongue river reservation in the latter part of the eighties, when Cooper was temporarily acting as the agent there. Two Indian boys, as young unmarried Indians are called, about 19 or 20 years of ago, respectively, had murdered a white man.

"Cooper called the Cheyennes together, and they numbered about 400 warriors at that time and equally as many squaws, who are pretty near as good as warriors when it comes to a ruction, and told them that the boys would have to be brought in and delivered up to answer for their crime. The Indians said they didn't know where the boys were, and Cooper very plainly told them that they were lying. Then they asked him how many ponies he would take to let up on the prosecution of the criminals, and Cooper said that he would not listen to any such talk as that, but that what he wanted was the boys, and that he wanted them brought in without any further palavering or subterfuge or delay. The father of one of the boys grew very indignant at Cooper's determined stand and said that the boys would come in all right, but that Cooper was too big a coward to meet them. This was the Indian way of challenging Cooper to a fight. He never winced, but got mad in turn. He told the gathering that the whole Cheyenne tribe couldn't scare him, and that he proposed to get those boys in spite of all of them and see that justice was done and dared the father to let the murderers know what he said. Then he rammed a few handfuls of ammunition into his pocket, took up his rifle and started out.

"The Cheyennes ranged themselves round on the bluffs and waited for the fun to begin, ready to take a hand in an instant, if necessary. Cooper know that if he showed the slightest signs of nervousness or fear the Indians would make short work of him, burn everything in sight and go cavorting off the reservation. But he grew mighty lonesome, for all the white employees of the reservation had become scared and gone to hiding. He called on the six or seven Indian police that were on duty at the reservation to stand by him, however, and took the precaution to send one of them after a cavalry troop, I think it was Troop A of the First, that was camped down on the Lame Deer. Pretty soon Cooper saw a couple of Cheyennes in full war paint and regalia riding like mad down the trail toward the agency. They were the boys who had murdered the old man. As they came within range the agent raised his rifle and plugged one of them so good and hard that he rolled off his pony and gave up the ghost without a single kick.

"The other one began circling around and around for a little while, as Indians do, getting ready for a rush, and Cooper awaited his opportunity to get a good shot at him, when the cavalry troop appeared. Then came the strangest part of the proceeding. That young Indian charged directly at the line of United States soldiers and went right through it, wounding four horses as he did so. But when he had gone through somebody whirled that troop around, and the result was that in less than three wags of a sheep's tail Mr. Indian boy was as full of holes as any piece of honeycomb you ever saw in your life. There was no more trouble at the Tongue river reservation while Cooper was there, and the Cheyennes respected him.

"You mustn't imagine from this that the northern Cheyenne is a weak specimen of the Indian. Those fellows at Tongue river were the very same who were taken down to Indian Territory many years ago and escaped and were not overhauled or stopped until they had gone north to within 50 or 60 miles of Pine Ridge, and the government didn't try to get them to go back any more. They are fierce to a degree and the best fighters that live today, but still they are upright in their dealings, and the character of their lives may be appreciated when the fact is known that there is not a woman among the northern Cheyennes who is not perfectly virtuous." — Washington Star.

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